May 07, 2007

"An Inconvenient Truth." For whom?

With much trepidation I viewed "An Inconvenient Truth". Alas, my fears were unfounded since most of what I saw, was already known to me. My apprehension about being confronted with an unknown or/and harsh reality were put to rest. Strangely enough, I didn't find myself happy about that; after all I had rid myself of a fear, an apprehension had been dealt with. What was it that tugged at my conscience and wouldn't let me breathe a sigh of relief? Why couldn't I simply say, " I finally watched "An Inconvenient Truth", and I'm not all shaken up because of it." It could be due to one of two reasons: one that the content of the documentary was not 'earth shattering' as I'd expected it to be, and second, given that I was mostly familiar with the content presented, why was I then not able to simply walk away from it. What was the dilemma brewing within me?

I gave this confusion much thought, and also chewed upon my pondering for quite a while after which I came up with some findings that were rather untoward. The 'truth' of the film is 'inconvenient' only to some. Most of the world is not even aware of the truth because they have more urgent things on their minds; like their next meal! They are totally consumed by their struggle to survive. Consequently, they are oblivious of Gore's 'truth' and the need to know it; convenient or otherwise. Then there are some that recognize the 'truth', and also find it 'inconvenient'; as a result, are doing whatever little they can do to appease their environment-friendly-conscience: cleaning up a river bed, using paper bags, recycling plastic.... Needless to say, their efforts are not making the cut.

Then, there are those to whom the truth is crystal clear but not inconvenient: in fact, this truth facilitates their cause. Giant multinationals, and the influential people who sit on its management boards are more than aware of Gore's truth, and find it most convenient and profitable because it pays for their million dollar salaries. Did these people watch the film? In all likelihood they did; to be able to say they did when making pleasantries with golf buddies in a country club!

What was Al Gore's purpose while making this documentary? If it was to inform the masses, then I'm not so sure he succeeded. The ordinary man did not perhaps see his documentary because ordinary people don't pay eight odd dollars to watch graphs and tables on the big screen! Gore would have been better off making a movie along the lines of "Blood Diamond" or "The Constant Gardner" because that would have at least brought to light the cause that he's fighting for. "Blood Diamond" for example, was an all out action movie, but it did make ordinary people cognizant of the inhuman ways in which diamonds are mined in Sierra Leone. "The Constant Gardner", on the other hand, was more of an adventure cum suspense movie with some captivating photography, and that movie did inform the masses about the unethical drug trials being carried out by multinational pharmaceutical companies in poor African countries. Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" definitely had an all important message to convey, but did the message get conveyed? How far and how clear?

Why didn't Al Gore write a book instead or go on a lecture circuit to spread his message? Why did he choose film as a medium to propagate a cause so urgent and so important, and especially since the life of our planet depends on it?

May 03, 2007

Children of Men - An Apocalypse or A Second Coming?

I wonder how I missed this movie on the big screen! Alfonso Cuaron's 'Children of Men' had me completely spellbound, just as Alejandro González Iñárritu's, "Babel" and Guilermo del Toro's, "Pan's Labyrinth" did. Might just be a coincidence, but three of the best movies I've seen this last year have come from artists of Mexican origin. What's even stranger is that the three have plans of making a movie together!

Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" presents a dystopia, Britain in the year 2027, mourning the death of its youngest citizen, an eighteen year old! The world's womb has been barren for the last eighteen years, and humanity is watching itself edge toward its extinction. Excessive pollution has resulted in infertility across the globe and man is left without an heir to home the earth. How then does he go about his business of living as the most intelligent species on the planet; one that knows how to survive despite all odds!

Alfonso Cuaron's Britain also suffers from another serious malady, a seriously fragmented population comprising of the government supporters, the rebels, the activists, and the refugees; a majority of who are living in subhuman conditions amid horrific violence, some in refugee camps that bring an Abu Gharaib and a Guantanamo Bay to mind. The country is flooded by immigrants who have now become targets of a government that wants them out.

This dual hell, is in fact Alfonso Cuaron's dystopia, one that is dangling between an assured apocalypse and a dormant and dubious hope. The nightmare for the refugees is relentless, as is the curse of infertility, but somehow fledgling faith forages and finds anchor in the refugee Kee's womb. Apparently, there is still some hope for humanity! Does Cuarno make good of it, or does he make heavy the blanket of gloom that lies heavy on a people lacking the will to live?

The movie is based on P. D. James novel of the same name published in 1992. I haven't read the novel, but Cuarno's movie makes me want to read it. Clive Owen as a reawakened activist is impressive, as is Kee playing the pregnant refugee. The plot and the setting, though futuristic, could as well have a current day existence. It is the plausibility of its situation that makes "Children of Men " so terrifying and a must-see. A dystopia no doubt, yet, Cuarno leaves the audience hopeful with a silhouette of "The Human Project" emerging on the horizon. What will we make of this fledgling hope? That is the question that Cuarno wants the audience to carry out of the theater, and so I did!